Story by Tappei Nagatsuki
Illustration by Shinichirou Otsuka
Translated by Jeremiah Bourque
The thrilling time-loop isekai Re:ZERO intensifies in Volumes 11 and 12. Subaru has finally conquered the Sanctuary’s first trial, gaining a newfound resolve in the process. Still, his confidence is quickly dashed when he returns to the Roswaal Mansion, only to be killed by a familiar foe: Elsa the Bowel Hunter.
Until now, Subaru has tackled his obstacles in a fairly linear fashion, but Arc 4 puts him in a more complicated situation. While the Sanctuary is in dire straits, Elsa’s presence near Irlam Village endangers countless lives. Subaru can’t just focus on a single problem, and must find a method to ensure everyone’s safety. In turn, this leads to Subaru’s use of Return by Death becoming more strategic. Subaru is fully aware that he can’t resolve everything right away, so he opts to use his powers to conduct trial runs of different paths. Subaru’s resolve shows how dramatically his priorities have shifted, searching for the best solution instead of mere survival. Subaru’s changed demeanor is emphasized by his trust in teamwork. He accepts that he’s not strong enough to face danger alone, and seeks comrades like Ram and Frederica to help ease the burden. Subaru no longer strives to be a hero, but to sate his own selfish wish: to save everyone.
Outside of Subaru’s goals, these volumes also explore the other enigmatic characters in the series. Garfiel is the most prominent among them, displaying an increasingly antagonistic attitude towards Subaru during each of his time loops. While Garfiel and Subaru both desire the Sanctuary’s safety, their priorities on the matter conflict. The unsettling tension provided by this rift makes Garfiel’s actions feel vague and unpredictable. That said, it’s clear Garfiel has the potential to be a powerful ally, but unless Subaru can soothe the animosity between them, he’s slowly becoming another threat.
Meanwhile, Subaru’s interactions with Roswaal have begun to reveal some ominous truths. The series has continually pointed out Roswaal’s distant behavior towards the danger Emilia has faced, but the logic behind his actions have remained a mystery. As his connections to Echidna have become evident, it’s become clear that Roswaal knows far more about Subaru and his powers than expected. This leaves Roswaal as a strange factor in the story. He’s not malicious, but he’s clearly using Subaru for his own ends. What makes than style=”font-weight: 400;”>Subaru’s most fascinating relationship so far has been with the Witch of Greed Echidna, and as Arc 4 has progressed, their dynamic has become increasingly nuanced. Initially, Echidna seemed like a helpful ally to Subaru, providing him emotional support during his trials. That said, Echidna is not helping Subaru out of goodwill, but rather to fuel her own desire for knowledge. Subaru represents a unique anomaly in the world, so by helping him survive, Echidna is able to witness unforeseen situations that will feed her hunger. In reality, Echidna has no sympathy for humanity, something Subaru is forced to realize. In life, the Sanctuary was Echidna’s laboratory to pursue immortality, with little regard for the failed clones she created in the process. Her cruelty is further demonstrated through her connection to Beatrice, forcing her to permanently live in the Roswaal Manor library on a mere whim without considering the severe isolation she would experience. Echidna views the people around her as pawns to control for her own purposes, and once she has lost interest in them, she casts them aside with no remorse. In theory, Echidna could be a tremendous help to Subaru if he formed a pact with her, but it’s clear that her priorities far differ from his own. Subaru seeks the best possible outcome with Return By Death, but in Echidna’s eyes, every possible outcome has an equal value. Subaru can’t trust the Witch of Greed, yet he can’t deny her help in his endeavors.
One of the biggest topics discussed in these volumes is the origins of Return By Death. As previously hinted, Return By Death was bestowed on Subaru by the Witch of Envy Satella, but the reason for his powers have remained a mystery. As Arc 4 has escalated, it’s become increasingly clear that Satella intends to use Emilia as a vessel. This was a possibility briefly mentioned by Betelgeuse in Arc 3, but the true horror of Satella’s actions is now witnessed in the potential futures that Subaru experiences. While Subaru’s goal doesn’t align with Satella’s, they both benefit from Emilia’s safety. By bestowing Subaru with Return By Death, Satella keeps her potential vessel alive and ensures her rebirth. That said, Satella’s actions remain unpredictable. It’s unknown why Satella wants to possess Emilia, and what conditions need to be triggered for it to occur. Nonetheless, it’s clear that Subaru’s seemingly beneficial power has darker intentions.
Arc 4 has also forced Subaru to consider the ramifications of his powers. During his discussions with Echidna, Subaru reaches the conclusion that Return By Death resets time to the inflection point that leads to Subaru’s death, allowing him to change the future in the process. While this power considers Subaru’s safety, it does not take into account the safety of his comrades. This was previously evident when Subaru committed suicide in an attempt to reverse Rem’s coma, only for time to be reset to the moment before he stabbed himself. Because Subaru’s death was solely caused by that one action, Return By Death sent Subaru back right before he committed it. Subaru has been using Return By Death to save the people around him, but it was never intended for that purpose. What’s even more worrying is that Subaru’s vision of Satella is becoming more clear every time he uses Return By Death. It poses whether Subaru’s powers have a finite limit, and what will happen when that limit is reached.
The Sanctuary’s second trial brings up an additional question regarding Return By Death: do the timelines in which Subaru dies live on after his death? During the second trial, Subaru was forced to witness the countless futures following his death, and the effect his passing had on his comrades and enemies. It has Subaru ponder if he is actually saving the people he vowed to protect or is just creating new worlds in which they are alive. In turn, this also ties back to the selfish nature of Return By Death. Subaru’s powers are meant to only benefit himself, so they do not consider the world around Subaru relevant. It conflicts with Subaru’s ideology, and questions the morality of Subaru’s actions.
Re:ZERO continues to exceed all expectations, as it reveals even more shocking secrets behind its characters and world. Subaru’s struggles have kept the series thoroughly engaging, and it delivers the gripping suspense that fans crave. Arc 4 is only halfway over, but it may already be Re:ZERO’s best arc yet!